I Samuel 3:1-18
by Jeff Lindsay
As I shared last week I was in a car accident in February and broke my neck. The neurosurgery unit was full so I was placed in the Burn Unit. There I met a wonderful nurse name Todd. Todd was forty-year-old husband and father of two who lives in Lakeville. He was my nurse for two days and he took great care of me. He seem to know what I needed before I needed it. Ten years ago he was a bar tender and doing just fine. I asked him why he became a nurse and he told me the story of his brother being in a work accident in North Dakota where he was burned very seriously. Todd said after watching his brother’s nurses do their job he ‘heard a voice’ telling him to do the same. He said the voice was clear but the path to accomplish this change was not, which almost kept him from that goal. It wasn’t easy but…
Was that really God speaking through Todd’s life experiences? Was that God at work? You might be saying I’m not quite sure.
Most of us probably relate better to how the people felt in Samuel’s day. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and there were not many visions. We too wonder if God speaks and if God is speaking why we don’t hear it more clearly.
Samuel was being raised at a time when Israel didn’t hear from God much because it was a time of corruption and greed, especially within the temple. In Shiloh, the town where the temple and the ark of God were located, Hophni and Phinehas, two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. These men used their office as priests for personal gain and immoral acts. Eli rebuked his sons but his warnings were too little and too late.
Although we might want to point a disappointed finger at these sons, too often we find ourselves serving our own self-interests by not listening to or for God’s voice.
Jesus proclaimed: “They who have ears, let them hear.”
God gave us two ears but only one mouth.
Some people say that’s because God wanted us to spend twice as much time listening as talking. Others claim it’s because God knew listening was twice as hard as talking. I lean toward the latter.
A high school class in music appreciation was asked the difference between listening and hearing.
At first there was no response.
Finally a hand went up and a student offered this wise definition: “Listening is wanting to hear.”
I believe God is speaking to his people — the key is that we must want to hear Him.
Last week I shared the idea that we don’t hear his voice because we don’t recognize it.
It seems as though our world needs people who will listen to God. I know I need to grow into the willingness if not the “wantingness” to hear from God. Could that be why so many of us feel as if the words of God are rare, and that there are few too many visions?
But just as I shared last week, I choose to believe God is speaking.
God is still willing to speak into our lives if we are willing to listen.
In the stories of God speaking we read about in Scripture, it seems like God’s voice comes as a surprise to everyone including the person God is calling.
I met another nurse in the ER at HCMC and her face was the first thing I remember of that experience. Laurie took the time to explain all that was and would happen during my time in the ER. Laurie was amazing. Before I could ask for anything she would be there offering it to me. A sip of water, a squeeze of my hand, another explanation of what was happening now. Laurie was with me for hours.
As I was leaving the ER to go to the Burn unit, Laurie came, took my hand, leaned into me, and said you’re going to be okay you’re in good hands now.
I responded, “Before I leave, I need to know your story!”
She said, “I will tell you my story. I was a twenty-year-old junior at the U of M studying, history, then art, then business, when a neighbor came by the dorm room and said he had just bought a new motorcycle. Did I want to go for a ride? I was already in my pajamas but slipped a pair of jeans over them with a pair of flip-flops and three months later I got out of the hospital. I have been doing this now for 26 years.”
“You are an amazing nurse,” I said.
She said, “I know! He [gesturing upward] made it clear what I was to be doing. Take care, and I was off!
Our Old Testament Lesson reveals to us that both Samuel and Eli were puzzled over God’s calling of Samuel, a 12 year old.
God called out three times to Samuel in the night.
And three times Samuel ran to Eli to ask what the priest needed.
When Samuel came to Eli for the third time, Eli perceived that it was God who was calling the boy. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”
Do we know the Lord who has been revealed to us? Personally?
Has the Word of the Lord been revealed to us? Well then Listen! God is speaking.
So Eli told Samuel to return to his bed: “and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel had been hearing God, but he hadn’t been listening.
I admit, at times I have trouble listening.
When I’m watching football or one of my shows on Hulu, and Tami, my wife, is talking to me about something that happened to her. As she talks, I may mumble, “Uh, huh.” Until, finally, in exasperation, she says, “You are not listening to what I am saying.”
When God speaks, do we listen or do we just mumble, “Uh, huh,” and continue with what we are doing?
“Do you have trouble hearing?” asked the teacher of a student who sat dreamily at his desk. “No, ma’am,” replied the boy, “I have trouble listening.”
That little boy can be me. How about you?
“So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The Lord came and stood there, calling like the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!” But unlike the other times this time Samuel was listening! Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
According to his auto-biography, Billy Graham has wrestled with similar issues. When Dr. Graham was just starting out as an Evangelist 1949 he wasn’t aware that he was on the brink of being catipulted into worldwide fame and influence.
Ironically, as he readied himself for his breakthrough crusade in Los Angeles, Dr. Graham found himself grappling with God’s call on his life. The fundamental issue he was dealing with was whether he could trust what he believed God was saying through the Bible. A friend of his, Chuck Templeton, said “Billy, you’re fifty years out of date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple. Your language is out of date. You’re going to have to learn a new jargon if you are going to be successful in ministry.” Templeton was also quoted as saying, “Poor Billy, I feel sorry for him. He and I are taking two different roads.” Chuck Templeton may not have realized then how prophetic his statement would be.
Thankfully, Billy Graham heard Chuck, but he didn’t ultimately listen to him. “If I was not exactly doubtful,” Graham would recall, “I was certainly disturbed.”
Dr. Graham searched the Scriptures for answers. He prayed, he pondered, he listened for the voice of God. Finally, in a heavy-hearted walk in the moonlit San Bernardino Mountains, everything came to a climax.
Gripping his Bible, Billy Graham dropped to his knees and confessed that he couldn’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that Chuck Templeton and others were raising. “I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken,” Billy wrote.
“At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it. ‘Father I am going to accept this as your Word by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your Word.’”
For Billy Graham, this was a pivotal moment.
History knows what would happen to Dr. Graham in the years to come. He would become the most persuasive and effective evangelist of modern times and one of the most admired person in the world. Billy Graham decided to say, like Samuel, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Sadly, Chuck Templeton seems to have decided to close his ears to God. According to his book, The Case For Faith, Lee Strobel writes: “Decimated by doubts, [Templeton] resigned from the ministry and moved back to Canada, where he became a commentator and a novelist.”
Strobel interviewed Chuck Templeton for his book. What Strobel found was an 83-year-old man who was very ill. His voice took on a melancholy and reflective tone as he answered questions about Jesus.
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He’s the most important thing in my life. I…I…I,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, “I know it may sound strange, but I have to say I adore him!” Templeton went on to say, “Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.”
“Abruptly,” Templeton cut short his thoughts. There was a brief pause, almost as if he was uncertain whether he should continue… That’s when Templeton uttered the words Strobel never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, “I miss Him!”
With that, tears flooded [Templeton’s] eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.”
Has it been some time since you listened for God speaking? As He talks, do you finding yourself mumbling, “Uh, huh,” and just continue doing what you are doing?
Through our passage this morning could God be speaking to you at the very heart of your faith?
God’s word in our lives today through His scriptures or the voice of his spirit may be a call to relinquish our plans and our dreams for God’s. What do you think? In order to listen to God we might need to give up or lay down something we are trying to hold tight to or control.
When one begins reading Samuel, it appears that Samuel is one who is very content to remain in the background. By the conclusion of 1st Samuel Chapter 3, Samuel has emerged as a prominent figure. How does Samuel move from the shadows into the spotlight? By listening to God, by being available to God?
Samuel was being trained to perform priestly duties to carry out the rituals of temple worship; however, God interrupted Samuel’s function of priestly duties and called him to be a prophet. This twelve-year-old boy became God’s spokesperson revealing purpose and direction for God’s people in the days when “the word of the Lord was rare and there were not many visions.”
Verse 19 and 20 that we read today says:
“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.”
The call of Samuel was a crucial moment in Israel’s history.
If we were to continue reading the book of Samuel we would find that Israel responded to the words of Samuel and followed his counsel. Israel returned to God and worshiped Him only.
I’m sure most of you remember the cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man. When Popeye would become frustrated or when he wasn’t certain what to do, he would say, “I yam what I yam.” When we look closely at Popeye, it seems that he is saying, “Don’t get your hopes up; don’t expect too much. I yam what I yam, and that’s all.”
Before Samuel Israel might have said the same: “I yam what I yam.” But God didn’t want Israel to stay the same.
Through Samuel, God called Israel to a new beginning.
The Bible tells us that God has a new beginning planned for all of us through Jesus, the Word that “became flesh and dwelt among us.”
It is God’s desire to reveal Himself to us through His words written, spoken, and discerned, to call us to new life, new hope, and new beginnings!
Can you hear? God is Speaking! Will you listen?
Let us pray…